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Opposition criticises ‘patriot act’

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, October 20
Opposition MP and Leader of the Democratic Party Gia Tortladze has suggested in Parliament that Georgia should adopt a patriot act, similar to the one adopted in the USA after the 9/11 tragedy. Other opposition parties however, both Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary, have condemned this initiative, stating that it creates extra threats to democracy and would help the administration persecute its opponents.

The idea of adopting such a law in Georgia was first raised in the summer of 2006 and then again just after the August War in 2008. Both times the opposition was against it, and nothing happened. This time the suggestion comes from one of the opposition themselves in the shape of Tortladze, but the rest of the opposition think that he is merely voicing an administration initiative. They believe he wants to be more Catholic than the Pope. The administration wants to disguise its intentions and is therefore getting Tortladze to present it in order to pretend that it is an opposition initiative, thinks Republican Party member Davit Zurabishvili.

Tortladze’s initiative is so far just an idea, but has still been criticised by the whole opposition. According to the Parliamentary Christian Democrats this sort of document will merely legalise the politicisation of the Georgian special services, as pursuing political opponent is already being practiced by appropriate parts of the Interior Ministry. They are sure that Tortladze’s suggestion undermines the building of a security system appropriate for a democratic society. The Christian Democrats have instead proposed creating a Parliamentary Commission to monitor the work of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Other opposition parties are also critical. Nino Burjanadze, leader of the Democratic Movement – United Georgia, thinks that if this act further limits democratic freedom this could lead to the further acceleration of the crisis in the country.

The administration positively assesses Tortladze’s initiative, thus giving some fuel to opposition arguments. Tortladze claims that bugging telephone calls and illegal searches of private premises are not part of his initiative, but at present it is just an idea and there is no way of knowing what a final draft, after several debates in a Parliament dominated by Government supporters, will eventually contain. The point remains, that when any restriction on freedom is suggested it must be made clear whose freedom you are restricting and why, and demonstrate how every clause of your law does this whilst being impervious to misinterpretation by those who have different ideas about whose freedom should be restricted. If the general public understand the principle behind a restriction on freedom they generally support it, as with jailing violent criminals or making ID cards compulsory, but it is no one’s interests to make the public feel that they the victims of oppression, whether inspired by Government or opposition.

Recently Tortladze aired another controversial initiative, the lustration law. Nothing seems to have become of that, but now he has suggested a patriot act to achieve a similar end.